Welcome to NYC. Planning a trip to the five boroughs can be part of the fun, but there’s also a lot of ground to cover—how to get here, what to expect from the weather, how to hail a taxi and much more.
New York City is composed of five boroughs. While Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, Brooklyn and Queens are geographically part of Long Island, and the Bronx is attached to the US mainland. The islands are linked by bridges, tunnels and ferries
Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide at its widest. Except at its northern and southern tips, the borough’s avenues run roughly north and south, and streets run east and west. One-way thoroughfares are common, with traffic moving east on even-numbered streets and west on odd-numbered streets. Fifth Avenue divides the island into east and west sides (for example, locations on 57th Street west of Fifth Avenue are designated “W. 57th St.,” and east of Fifth Avenue, they’re “E. 57th St.”). As you move farther east or west from Fifth Avenue, street addresses increase, usually in increments of 100 from one block to the next. For north-south avenues, 20 blocks equals a mile, and the street numbers increase as you go uptown. Blocks can be a useful measure of distance, but keep in mind your direction: walking uptown from 1st Street to 6th Street is about a quarter of a mile, but walking the same number of blocks crosstown, from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue, is approximately a mile.
New York City weather can vary from day to day, and even hour to hour, but a guide to the seasons can help you plan your wardrobe. Spring in New York City brings budding flowers, light winds and rain, with the season’s temperatures ranging from cool to very warm. Summer is characterized by bright, sunny, hot days and later sunsets, sometimes accompanied by cool breezes in areas near the water. The fall season is cool and crisp, so it’s wise to wear layers. The winter months are cold and snowy with less daylight, though the sky is often sunny and clear. Below is a chart with average temperatures and rainfall by month.
Getting Around NYC
MTA—Subways and Buses
If you can’t walk to your destination, mass transit is the next-best way to get around. The City’s rail and bus system is run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). It’s inexpensive, environmentally friendly and a great way to see sights throughout the five boroughs—and it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The system is accessible to passengers with visual, hearing and mobility disabilities.
Purchasing a MetroCard is your first step to getting around on subways and buses. You can buy a MetroCard at subway stations, from either automated machines (which accept cash, ATM bank cards and regular credit cards) or booth attendants (cash only). A single subway or bus ride is $2.75 (although the base fare on pay-per-ride cards is $2.50). An Express Bus ride costs $6. Riders can buy a SingleRide card (sold at vending machines only; must be used within two hours of purchase), a pay-per-ride card or an unlimited MetroCard. An unlimited MetroCard allows users to ride as often as they like within a fixed time period: options include unlimited cards that last for seven days ($30) or 30 days ($112). There’s also a $1 surcharge on the purchase of a new MetroCard. To avoid the charge, customers can refill their existing card. The MTA offers discounts for seniors (over age 65) and disabled riders, as well as a “bonus” credit of 5 percent for purchases of $5 or more on pay-per-ride cards. For the most up-to-date information on MetroCard prices.
The easiest and quickest way to travel around NYC is by public subway train. Riding the subway is also a fantastic way to feel like a local during your stay in New York.
• Subway trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• For $2.75 (the cost of a single ride), you can use the system citywide and transfer as many times as you need, as long as you don’t exit the system through a turnstile.
• You can transfer from bus to subway or vice versa within two hours of using your MetroCard. (The free transfer does not apply if you leave a subway station through a turnstile and want to get on another subway line.)
• Subway stations on the same line are generally about eight to 10 blocks apart.
• The subway does not travel to Staten Island. To get there, board the free Staten Island Ferry or take a bus.
Public buses are a scenic way to see the City and reach destinations not convenient to a subway stop. It’s also worth noting that mass transit is central to New York City’s efforts to become more environmentally friendly, and a growing number of NYC’s buses are hybrid-electric models.
• All City buses accept the MetroCard and exact coin change (no pennies or paper money accepted).
• Check the route sign on the front of the bus before boarding to ensure it’s the bus you want, and make sure you know if it’s making all stops or only “limited” stops (the limited buses don’t make all stops along the route).
• Enter and pay at the front of the bus.
• A single ride will take you any distance until the end of the route.
• Many buses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but be sure to check whether your route offers overnight service. A schedule and route map posted at the bus stop indicate when the bus should arrive and where it will go.
• Buses run about every five to 15 minutes, or at longer intervals, depending on the time of day.
• If you have a smartphone, you can scan the QR code at the bus stop to receive information about when the next bus is expected to arrive.
• Buses generally stop every other block on avenue routes and every block on cross-street routes. Late at night, from 11pm to 5am, bus drivers will stop wherever you ask them to—as long as they feel it’s safe.
The Roosevelt Island Tram
With the swipe of a MetroCard, the Roosevelt Island Tram gives you an aerial view of Midtown East along its path from 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan to Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens. The tram got its start in the early 1900s, taking passengers halfway across the Queensboro Bridge, where an elevator would then transport them down to the island. Today, it provides direct service for more than 2 million riders seven days a week, from 6am to 2am Sunday through Thursday, and from 6am to 3:30am Friday and Saturday, with transfers available to NYCTA subways and buses.
The City’s fleet of yellow taxicabs is regulated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Grabbing a cab can be ideal when tired feet, heavy luggage or shopping bags weigh you down.
• Taxis are available 24 hours a day.
• Hail taxis whose numbers are illuminated on top—they’re on duty.
• Board and exit the cab curbside.
• Hotel doormen can hail a cab for you; a $1 tip is customary for this service.
• Minimum metered fare is $2.50, which increases 50 cents every fifth of a mile; there is also a New York State tax surcharge of 50 cents per ride.
• An additional $1 surcharge is added to the meter Monday–Friday, 4–8pm, and a 50-cent surcharge is added at night, 8pm–6am.
• All taxis accept cash and most accept credit cards.
• Tip 15–20% at the end of a trip; tolls are extra and added to the metered fare.
If you’re planning to drive around the City, use Google Maps to help you navigate New York City roads. Also, make sure you know where to park. You may want to use a site like bestparking.com to compare parking rates and locations from a number of companies. Be aware, though, that the site’s listings are not complete. If you need to rent a car, it may be worth considering Connect by Hertz, a self-service “car share” program that allows members to book vehicles for as little as an hour and as long as a week, 24 hours a day.
Walking and public transit are excellent ways to get around New York, but you can also travel the City by bike, pedicab, ferry or even helicopter if you so desire. Take a different route, and you just might see the City from a whole new angle.
NYC by Bike
Biking the City is good for the environment and your body, and can often be faster and cheaper than fuel-powered transportation. Cycling hotspots like Central, Riverside and Prospect parks, and bike paths along the Hudson and East rivers and many bridges, are among the great options for hitting the City on two wheels—but all of NYC is bike-able and bike-worthy. Check out Ride the City to find the safest route from point A to point B and Transportation Alternatives for NYC biking resources.
Bike and Roll New York lets riders purchase a flexible Day Pass with multiple locations for picking up and dropping off their bike. The company also offers sightseeing tours that traverse Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan’s bike path along the Hudson River and more. Bike and Roll is also the only rental company stationed on car-free, rider-friendly Governors Island.
Citi Bike is New York City’s bike sharing system, and it has gained a quick adoption since its inception in May 2013. There are thousands of bikes at hundreds of stations, available 24/7 every day of the year. Unlock a bike at any station, ride wherever you want and check in the bike at any other station. Daily, weekly and annual passes are available.
If you want someone else to do the pedaling for you, hop in a pedicab (sometimes called a “bike taxi” or “bicycle rickshaw”). You won’t have to look too hard in the busier parts of Manhattan—the drivers aren’t shy about offering their services.
NYC by Ferry
As a waterfront city, New York is home to an extensive ferry system that can get you uptown, downtown and across the rivers to Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and New Jersey.
The Staten Island Ferry is a staple of many morning commutes—and a must-see on any sightseeing itinerary. Running since 1905, the route between Staten Island and Manhattan’s Whitehall Ferry Terminal is a glorious 5-mile, 25-minute mini-cruise with great views of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan—and it’s free.
New York Water Taxi is another popular aquatic shuttle. Hop-on and hop-off stops include Pier 84 (at West 44th Street), Christopher Street, Battery Park, South Street Seaport and Pier 1 in DUMBO. Check nywatertaxi.com for information on schedules and package deals.
NY Waterway operates commuter ferries between points in Manhattan and New Jersey, and harbor and sightseeing cruises. The East River Ferry also provides a refreshing addition to public transportation in the City (and breathtaking skyline views), with regular service to seven locations across three boroughs. A 74-foot ferry departs every 20 to 30 minutes from 7am to 8:30pm on weekdays and every 35 minutes from 9am to 8pm on weekends.
NYC by Helicopter
Seeing New York by air is an unforgettable experience, and the City offers helicopter tours for adventuresome visitors and curious locals alike. Here are some choices:
Liberty Helicopters (212-967-6464) runs several tours of the City;Helicopter Flight Services, Inc. (212-355-0801), will personalize sightseeing tours and charters; and New York Helicopter Charter, Inc.(212-361-6060), allows you to choose from three options: the Liberty Tour, the Central Park Tour and the Grand Tour, which combines the first two tours and also flies over many other essential NYC attractions.
NYC Cruise Information
New York is one of America’s top cruise ports. Passengers from New York City can cruise to the Caribbean year-round and may also cruise to the Northeast, Canada, Bermuda, England and many other destinations around the world.